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Excerpt: "Amid record profits ... even as the banks plan thousands of layoffs: Banks, including Bank of America, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse, are planning to lay off tens of thousands of workers."

File photo, Wall Street, American International Group (AIG) offices in New York City, 02/24/09. (photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
File photo, Wall Street, American International Group (AIG) offices in New York City, 02/24/09. (photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

11 Facts About Biggest Banks

By Pat Garofalo, Think Progress

08 October 11


Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns

11 facts you need to know about the nation's biggest banks.

he Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York City more than three weeks ago have now spread across the country. The choice of Wall Street as the focal point for the protests - as even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said - makes sense due to the big bank malfeasance that led to the Great Recession.

While the Dodd-Frank financial reform law did a lot to ensure that a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis won't occur - through regulation of derivatives, a new consumer protection agency, and new powers for the government to dismantle failing banks - the biggest banks still have a firm grip on the financial system, even more so than before the 2008 financial crisis. Here are eleven facts that you need to know about the nation's biggest banks:

  • Bank profits are highest since before the recession ...: According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., bank profits in the first quarter of this year were "the best for the industry since the $36.8 billion earned in the second quarter of 2007." JP Morgan Chase is currently pulling in record profits.

  • ... even as the banks plan thousands of layoffs: Banks, including Bank of America, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse, are planning to lay off tens of thousands of workers.

  • Banks make nearly one-third of total corporate profits: The financial sector accounts for about 30 percent of total corporate profits, which is actually down from before the financial crisis, when they made closer to 40 percent.

  • Since 2008, the biggest banks have gotten bigger: Due to the failure of small competitors and mergers facilitated during the 2008 crisis, the nation's biggest banks - including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo - are now bigger than they were pre-recession. Pre-crisis, the four biggest banks held 32 percent of total deposits; now they hold nearly 40 percent.

  • The four biggest banks issue 50 percent of mortgages and 66 percent of credit cards: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup issue one out of every two mortgages and nearly two out of every three credit cards in America.

  • The 10 biggest banks hold 60 percent of bank assets: In the 1980s, the 10 biggest banks controlled 22 percent of total bank assets. Today, they control 60 percent.

  • The six biggest banks hold assets equal to 63 percent of the country's GDP: In 1995, the six biggest banks in the country held assets equal to about 17 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product. Now their assets equal 63 percent of GDP.

  • The five biggest banks hold 95 percent of derivatives: Nearly the entire market in derivatives - the credit instruments that helped blow up some of the nation's biggest banks as well as mega-insurer AIG - is dominated by just five firms: JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.

  • Banks cost households nearly $20 trillion in wealth: Almost $20 trillion in wealth was destroyed by the Great Recession, and total family wealth is still down "$12.8 trillion (in 2011 dollars) from June 2007 - its last peak."

  • Big banks don't lend to small businesses: The New Rules Project notes that the country's 20 biggest banks "devote only 18 percent of their commercial loan portfolios to small business."

  • Big banks paid 5,000 bonuses of at least $1 million in 2008: According to the New York Attorney General's office, "nine of the financial firms that were among the largest recipients of federal bailout money paid about 5,000 of their traders and bankers bonuses of more than $1 million apiece for 2008."

In the last few decades, regulations on the biggest banks have been systematically eliminated, while those banks engineered more and more ways to both rip off customers and turn ever-more complex trading instruments into ever-higher profits. It makes perfect sense, then, that a movement calling for an economy that works for everyone would center its efforts on an industry that exemplifies the opposite. your social media marketing partner


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+111 # barkingcarpet 2011-10-08 22:25

Too big, is an epic failure, and our government is failing at it's only purpose, sane regulation, and protection of the rights and welfare of "We The People."

No more "corporate" rape, pillage, and plunder, for $ profit at the expense of a healthy future.
+32 # NanFan 2011-10-09 07:09
I find this all very disturbing, but not surprising, as I watch my "big bank" change my "free" checking account to a "fee" checking account if I don't leave in a certain amount of money on an average OR if I don't have a certain level of "direct deposit" each month.

AND if I want to use my BIG BANK credit card or ATM card outside the US, not only am I charged a fee for using a "non-BIG BANK" ATM, but if I purchase something with my card, I am now charged "an International Fee!!!"

And these two things just started in the past few months.

I don't trust any of the banks, big or small, really. I want to work in cash only, but there are times when I'm not allowed to pay for necessary things, like renting a car without using a credit card.

This is a WAY scarier time than 2008, because NOW we have "their number," we get it, and IT isn't good AT ALL!

I see a run on the banks happening really soon, if it already hasn't started.

+52 # giraffee2012 2011-10-08 22:33
Congress is who de-regulated and thus allowed these banks to gain all the $$ -- so they should be impeached!

And still the GOP/TP is crying to stop all regulations and any constriction on big business.

If WE don't get the justice department or the Supremes to enforce -- Wait: The Supremes are in bed with the BIG $$$ -- their 2010 "person hood" decision confirms this accusation.

They are the HIGHEST (supremes) -- NOW WHAT? The lame stream media keeps putting Cantor on the news since he came out Friday with his KKK - type accusation against the President (& Occupy Wall Street).

Cantor is insane - just look at him when he speaks! The Turtle from KY is an outlaw biggot -

There must be some judge or lawyer who can stand up for justice. Scalia/Thomas were wined/dined by Koch brothers before 2010 "person hood" decision.

The voting age was enacted within a short period of time by the people signing petitions. NOW - -sign the "get money out of government" on Dillon Radigan's web site.

If we are still around and the TP/GOP governed states have not rigged elections -- VOTE DEM VOTE OBAMA in 2012 -- our only chance.

Get minorities registered (mail in ballots)
+27 # Virginia 2011-10-09 01:46
Clinton and Sen. Gramm (R) Texas - repealed Glass-Steagall, with the help of Congress. They are ALL pledged to the Fed... Geithner, Bernanke are Obama's pals, are just as bad - so why do we want any of them back?

Bank profits are the highest because they are using empty foreclosed properties as assets. Take away the properties they scammed from the homeowners and these banks are and have been wholly undercapitalize d. The presidential administrations have allowed these banks to manipulate the laws and have assisted them when they should have seized them. Don't vote for anybody who isn't willing to take down the Federal Reserve and regulate derivatives. See Bernie Sanders' article "Wall Street reform must address the powerful and secretive Federal Reserve" on
+17 # Capn Canard 2011-10-10 08:52
Virginia, thanks for stating what is rarely said. The banks are fraudsters, racketeers, and gangsters manipulating wealth/capital without creating anything of value. They create nothing. Zero.
0 # wcandler1 2011-10-09 14:17
Quoting giraffee2012:
-- VOTE DEM VOTE OBAMA in 2012 -- our only chance.

Get minorities registered (mail in ballots)

No! Our only chance is an alternative to vote for in the Democratic primary!
+13 # GravityWave 2011-10-09 23:45
This is the wrong time to switch carts. Every time Dems. do that we get creamed. That's how we got W. Bush in the first place. Ralph Nader jumped in and split the Gore vote while the things Nader represented were far less important than stopping the Repug machine. We need all Dems, all "liberals", all progressives to hang together instead of flying off in all directions.

The Repugs have a hugh machine they have been building over the last 40 years or more. We are spread all over. We need some legislation to break up the media monopolies, empeach Supreme Court members who are frauds like Clartence Thomas, to fight Wall Street, to fight the ignorance and disaster Repugs have made of voters, to fight the oil and gas giants, to empower State Banks, etc., etc., etc. We do not need new primaries. And we need to Occupy Wall Street and a lot of other places. VOTE FOR OBAMA!!!!!
+6 # Capn Canard 2011-10-10 08:49
GravityWave, I used to be a believer in "Democratic values" like you, until I was made aware of the complicity of Democrat crimes which are similar, if not identical, to Rethugilcan corruption. Our biggest obstacle is MONEY and both political Parties are a group of whores. Money is the carcinogen and Banks are it's growth medium that will kill our culture, society, economy, and political foundation. Make no mistake about it. Until we get rid of the Too Big to Fail ideology we are destined for to crash and burn in the graveyard of empires.
+3 # zakcat 2011-10-10 18:24
You're right.
+1 # Doubter 2011-10-11 14:25
"we need to Occupy Wall Street and a lot of other places"
Like maybe the White House?
+5 # zakcat 2011-10-10 18:23
It's too late to 'impeach' congressmen who created this mess; it happened mainly in 1996, Republican congress under Pres. Clinton (who didn't object) They destroyed the Glass-Steagal act, enacted after the Great Depression. It forbid bank to invest in speculative 'wheeling-deali ng' transactions. Reagan also was responsible for geting rid of Depression Era bank regulations which protected us.
+64 # jimking 2011-10-08 22:57
Banks do not deserve to have any of us as customers. Cut all your ties with banks, cut up all your credit cards. Join a Credit Union and share in the control of your financial life.
+47 # pernsey 2011-10-08 22:58
Oh yeah and Bank of America has to impose debit card fees, because their greedy period!!! Its disgusting!!!! I have my money in a credit union. Reading this stuff really makes me feel angry...Bank of America shame on you!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!
+22 # wmcarder 2011-10-09 01:33
State and local governments should create public banks and set themselves free from Wall Street. Use the positive example of Bank of North Dakota. Move your money to commlunity banks and credit unions. If you have a brokerage account, make sure your account is not a margin account that facilitates short sales. Develop your local economy and assert your personal power by protesting the big banks in your community.
+12 # Barbara N Shabo RN 2011-10-09 04:44
Watch Dylan Ratigan's rant (google or you tube) then sign his petition, get money out.
+2 # reiverpacific 2011-10-09 09:56
"Brooklyn Basics".
Thanks for the link.
Signed it already and otherwise spread it around my worldwide circle.
+3 # GravityWave 2011-10-09 23:48
See Dean Bakers new book also. These banks owe our economy and us trillions of $$$.
+8 # PiscesCurveUS 2011-10-09 13:07
...and, last but not least, #12...
These Usurers & ('risk-free') derivativists are USURPING the privilege of a SOVEREIGN government to print & issue its own Public currency in the Public interest.

"In early times, the creation of money was the sole privilege of the kings or other sovereigns– namely the sovereign people, acting through their Government. This principle is firmly anchored in our Constitution and it is a perversion to transfer the privilege to private parties to use in their own real, or presumed, interest.”
- The 'Chicago Plan', 1939

"The founders of the Republic did not expect the banks to create the money they lend. John Adams, when President, looked with horror upon the exercise of control over our money by the banks."
- The 'Chicago Plan', 1939
+1 # Capn Canard 2011-10-10 09:02
PiscesCurveUS, absolutely! Well said, the currency system is devoid of the good sense of small business and American workers.
+10 # jwb110 2011-10-09 13:35
I think we need to do more than to just put our money in small local banks. I think we should demand that our individual states form state banks. The states that have them have not suffered anywhere near amount as states without state banks.
Everyone has to take into consideration that working in an underground or black market economy is the only way to guarantee that the banks get no more of the money that you pay in tax dollars. Cash and carry is the way to go. If it doesn't get to Washington the GOP/TP cannot siphon the money into the pockets of the 1%.
We have to think that the big crooks in the 1% if as Americans we will have anything to show for our labors.
+22 # MicheleB 2011-10-09 14:18
I'm a credit union member. I left big banking years ago when I wanted to establish a relationship with a real person, not an unknown loan officer -- or more recently, a web site.

I think the idea of depriving BoA and the other big banks of our money is the best one. And, if you can get a mortgage or re-finance, try to find a credit union that is not going to re-sell your mortgage to the likes of JP Morgan or Citi.

Reinstate Glass-Steagle.

I think the small depositors (us) should yank their money out and put it elsewhere. We won't cause a run (DAMN!), but we can at least deprive them of our sheep-like "follow the big dog" behavior.
+10 # John Locke 2011-10-09 16:20
Tell me this whole depression wasn't planned!
+4 # DurangoKid 2011-10-09 22:29
Years ago it was postulated that there may be no profit to be had in dealing with global peak oil. There are no viable alternatives to oil and may never be. The one think the elite class can do is destroy demand for oil by bringing on a collapse in the financial sector. Stretch the oil supply by forcing the masses of oil users out of the market. Is this a conspiracy theory? Do the big banks and brokerage houses have that kind of power? Or are they victims, albeit well heeled victims, of the current plateau in oil production? In an unstable system it takes only a small jolt to bring it to collapse. Maybe the cause of the current financial meltdown is a bit of both.
+4 # Capn Canard 2011-10-10 08:59
John Locke, look up Lindsey Williams' little seiries of talks about the oil industry. It is very interesting and despite being a poor southern preacher who went to Alaska during the oil boom of the 70's and 80's he was given a great deal of insider information from a deep throat oil insider (apparently a Mr. Ken Fromm). Most of which he has said has come to pass... but there is more to come. The uber wealth have planned this for quite some time. It is about control.
+9 # DurangoKid 2011-10-09 22:20
Vote with your dollars. Take it out of the too big to fail bank and put it in your local small bank or credit union.

Pay off your credit cards every month. They'll hate you!
+6 # uglysexy 2011-10-09 23:05
credit default swaps have not been sufficiently regulated nor made transparent by dodd frank
0 # karenvista 2011-10-12 23:01
Quoting uglysexy:
credit default swaps have not been sufficiently regulated nor made transparent by dodd frank

Ah yes, credit default swaps. They are the equivalent of being able to buy insurance on your neighbor's house and collecting when it (accidentally) burns down. How can it still be legal to bet that something you DON'T own will lose value. That's what got us whacked with over $150 billion in AIG losses. Most derivatives should be outlawed but these are the worst of all. At the very least they should have to be traded on exchanges so they are transparent and there should be no government backing for them at all. If the two parties want to gamble then they take the complete risk. And ALL the "too big to fails" should be broken up!
+4 # GravityWave 2011-10-09 23:59
Please write to your Senators and ask them to put legislation in place to help create and finance State banks and support Credit Unions to expand and pick up the money and the employees the big banks are about to can.

My Senators and John McCain and Jon Kyl. I can't even communicate with Kyl and McCain is either out to senile lunch or has given up every semblance of integrity. My wonder Giffords was shot in the head and I have hardly any way to be heard except at And I do that often. But we need some laws for people to use to help the people who have helped us like State Banks and Credit Unions. Please write your Congressional Dems. for me!
+13 # Artemis 2011-10-10 03:47
Check out small banks! In Europe there are alternatives: banks that invest in ecological and non-exploitive interests, banks that give small loans, etc. And these banks are growing fast. You may not be able to find their free cash machines on every corner, but it is time for change and that means thinking differently on every level.

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